What Can I Say?


Originally written and posted for Austen Authors.

Jane Austen's "writing environment"

 When I began researching and writing Pulse and Prejudice, I stopped cooking and cleaning. You see, I have what in the world of the arts is known as a “day job” (as in “Don’t quit your..."). Until I am able to live my dream of being a writer by profession, I work forty to fifty hours a week at said “day job,” the stresses of which often force me to indulge my love of wine and cheese and, on occasion, the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. (Yes, I will watch all five hours in one sitting.)

Once I jumped into the Pulse and Prejudice project, it literally (pun only slightly intended) was another full-time job. With only a finite number of hours in the day – and despite the benefits of chronic insomnia – if I were going to pursue this novel and keep our house out of foreclosure, something had to give: cooking and cleaning.

We attempted to hire maid service companies to take care of the cleaning, but two different companies on two different occasions had two different employees who stole from me! Although several friends have recommended people they consider trustworthy, I know that, with my neuroses and habit of losing things combined with this history of thievery, anytime I would misplace something, I would automatically think the maid had stolen it. Thus, our house has not been cleaned in almost a year.

Colette's "writing environment"
My reason for telling you all of this is threefold. First, prepare yourself if you ever come to my home – it is filthy; secondly, stay away from the Crunchwrap Supreme at Taco Bell because it is as addictive as heroin; and lastly, creativity does not come easily to me. In fact, it is a full-time job. This might sound strange coming from a writer, but I have struggled to come up with ideas for blog topics. My blog “Confessions of a Fan Fiction Convert” was not just my first blog for Austen Authors – it was my first blog ever. After that, my ideas dried up.

In my “day job,” my strengths lie in logic and analytical reasoning. (A friend who is a practitioner of energy medicine describes me as being “digital.”) Even with my novels, I create an outline and a timeline, develop a full character analysis, and prepare a detailed synopsis before even beginning the actual process of writing. Once I have the skeleton, then I can meditate on fleshing it out.

Perhaps creativity did not always require such effort for me. I actually began writing fiction in junior high, composing romance novellas in spiral notebooks, which were passed around among my classmates, that boasted titles such as Ferris’s Wheel. Of course, as they all followed a basic formula, even those early “masterpieces” did not require too much creativity. Every heroine was breathtakingly beautiful, every man she met fell instantly in love with her, and each story ended tragically. The heroine would either be murdered by a lover, commit suicide, or be wrongly convicted and put to death for her lover’s murder. Hey – I was thirteen, fourteen! That is one (of many) reasons I never read any of those Twilight books. I’ve had enough of teen angst.

Once accepted as an Austen Author, I understood I would be blogging periodically and, with all the hubris of the newly-published, thought, “No sweat!” As any Greek tragedy will tell you, the gods hate hubris. After my first blog, I could think of nothing else to write about! I would read the other blogs by the Austen Authors and think, “Doggonit! I could have blogged on that!” (I hope none of them has blogged on having trouble blogging before.) Regina Jeffers’ blog on naming characters, for example, would have been perfect for me to describe how I decided the names of all the original characters in Pulse and Prejudice. (All My Tomorrows, not so much. I let my husband name them.)

Hence, I did what anyone does when he needs to find something out. I Googled. Fortunately, I found a plethora of ideas for blog topics. Alas, most of them did not help. One said, “Blog about writing, your process, etc.” Then another said, “Don’t blog about writing – readers don’t care about your process.” Several suggested blogging on what sparks our creativity, which became my second blog about my muse, “90% Inspiration.”

I found lists, which were purportedly “blog topics” but in reality only required a one phrase response from me. “Do you outline your plots or just run with it?” Outline. “Who is your favorite writer?” Shakespeare. “Where do you do most of your writing?” In bed. “Describe your writing environment.” Um, it’s a sleigh bed, cherry maybe. I usually have three pillows behind me and a dog at my feet. “Do you listen to music when you write?” No. Well, except since I did feature a few Beethoven sonatas in Pulse and Prejudice, I listened to them before incorporating them into the novel; and for a song used in a pivotal scene in All My Tomorrows, I played it when I read back the scene to ensure my prose and the music were synchronized.

What is the common denominator?
This blog suggestion I found hysterical: “People love lists. List your five favorite books or songs and describe why you like them.” OK. Favorite books: The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, The Brothers Karamazov, The Magic Mountain, Pride and Prejudice, The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Universe. Favorite songs: Wish You Were Here, Reckoner, Dust in the Wind, If You Could Read My Mind, Wild World. Why do I like them? How am I supposed to know?!? I could probably (with thorough analysis) find a thread of literary continuity in my first three choices in books, but music? I have no idea why I love these songs any more than I could say why I love lobster or chocolate.

Then I read the suggestion of providing a "How to” guide – instructions on something readers might want to know. I considered my hobby, but I figured you all know how to open a box of wine. I struggled but eventually determined one thing, which – after years of practice – I had finally mastered: The best process for going to the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Unfortunately, I doubt many of you would have much use for the wisdom of my experience there.

I found suggestions to blog about pets (I could probably bore you to tears on that subject) or the most unusual place ever visited. I have been to five continents. I spent a month in Peru, including a week with the Matsés tribe in the Amazonian Rainforest . Would you like to read about that? I become petulant when other people talk about their amazing trips.

Several sites recommended using a blog as an opportunity to answer questions from readers. Although I do on occasion receive a message from a reader who has enjoyed one of my novels and may perhaps be too timid to leave a review, no one has ever asked me any questions.

And so, my dear readers, I put this to you: Do you have any particular questions or topics you would like me to blog about? Do you want to know about my “process” or how to go to Jazz Fest? The best cheese to go with a box Chablis? Take pity on a “digital” personality. I have a feeling I will need a lot of help.

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